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Would you take Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences on holiday?

Professional practice is a lifelong journey

If you are Mr Loophole (Nick Freeman) then you would.

This was part of what Nick Freeman had to say at his keynote speech at the Netlaw Media conference last week.

You are probably curious to know why anyone in their right mind would find any enjoyment reading this tome. They probably don’t, but for Nick Freeman he is passionate about motoring law, and doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to hone his craft.

Before hearing the speech, my perception of Nick Freeman was entirely coloured by the popular press. Rightly or wrongly, given both his nickname and sharp suits, I tended to the view that he was all style and little substance. That wasn’t the impression that I came away.

Rather, he was passionate, inspired, dedicated and savvy when it came to cultivating his brand built around a simple mantra: being the best at what he did and wanting to win his cases.

He described how he had come up the hard way in prosecuting motoring matters, and recognising that even though road traffic was perceived by the profession as being at the grubby end of things, if he got good at it, really good at, then there was no reason why he could not achieve his childhood dreams.

The important aspect to his speech, that really grabbed my attention, was his approach to his craft and how that, and not any clever marketing, had grown his practice.

He was absolutely resolute that the only way to grow a successful practice, even without the benefit of a stellar cast of celebrities, was to drill down on an area that you were passionate about and being the very best that you could be. This resonated with the “Best in the World” quote from Seth Godin’s book The Dip. It meant making the most of your talents, using any influence that you could muster with the media and doing your absolute best for your clients.

Now I am quite sure that a number of people in the audience would have felt uncomfortable in being quite as brazen with his desire to cosy up to the press but it has worked for him; but that wouldn’t have been the case if he had lost his cases. Mr Loser doesn’t quite have the same ring.

It is cruccally important that if you do decide to qualify into a practice area to ensure that do your very, very best for your clients. You don’t just go the extra mile, you act as if you only have one client to please and if you upset this client then you will have no more work. Too often I have witnessed lawyers put certain clients to the back of the queue on the basis that the client doesn’t complain or more likely because they are not considered important enough.

But it goes further than just trying to provide an exceptional level of service. Taking the Wilkinson’s theme, you have to go that extra mile in developing your knowledge and skills in your chosen area. If you are a litigator then consider the 80/20 rule. Look at the areas of practice where 80% of your work is coming from. I would then be focused on knowing everything about the law and procedure. Just because you left University a few years ago doesn’t mean that you should ignore your (lifelong) learning.

Even though we are talking about your professional life, there is no reason why this methodology could not be applied to your personal affairs. Again, it reminds me of the the expression coined by Michael Gerber of the E-Myth that the key difference between those people that are successful, personally or professionally, is because they go to work on their lives and not allow circumstance to dictate the outcome.

Next time you have a free moment give some thought to where you might be in 5 or 7 years time.

Where will you be working?

What will you be earning?

Who will you be acting for?

As part of your plans you have to want to become the best at what you do. Of course, there will be some people who drift into management but the reality is that lawyers, if they want to be successful and grow a team, have to make sure that they are the most that they can be as lawyers and build a strong band of clients who not only instruct them every time but also tell all their friends, family and people of influence.

In the future being liked, known and trusted for what you do will be more crucial than ever. It won’t be enough to hide under the umbrella of a well known brand. You need to foster your own persona and client association.

Oh and make sure that the area of law you end up studying has a more gripping read than Wilkinson’s. In my case, I would have been only too happy to read Chitty on Contracts given that I was the only trainee that I can ever recall who forked out £250 for both volumes (and I am not getting rid of them in a hurry even though they are seriously out of date).

~ JS ~

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